After an asteroid passed close to earth and a meteorite exploded over Russia last Friday, world leaders have renewed calls for defensive measures against threats from space. Two scientists at the University of California at Santa Barbara have unveiled a proposal for a system of solar-powered lasers that could be used to change an asteroid’s orbit – or vaporize it completely – while gathering valuable data on its composition.
UC Santa Barbara physicist Philip Lubin and Gary Hughes, a researcher at California Polytechnic State University, unveiled their proposal for a system that could be deployed as a defense weapon against potential threats from space. The weapon, called DE-STAR (Directed Energy Solar Targeting of Asteroids), is based on existing solar harvesting technology. The system would harness solar power and channel it into a phased array of lasers, which would then be used to vaporize smaller asteroids or comets or push them from a collision course with Earth.
According to the scientists who have been working on the DE-STAR project for a year, the system could be developed in different sizes. Estimates suggest that DE-STAR 2 could destroy an asteroid 10 times the size of 2012 DA14 which missd us by about 17,100 miles last Friday. DE-STAR 6 could function both as an orbiting power source and propulsion system, allowing for interstellar travel.
“We need to be proactive rather than reactive in dealing with threats. Duck and cover is not an option. We can actually do something about it and it’s credible to do something. So let’s begin along this path. Let’s start small and work our way up. There is no need to break the bank to start,” said Lubin.